letters from nairobi


Idiot Savant or Just Idiot?
December 29, 2011, 12:30
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , ,

Sometimes, I am unable to tell whether my dog is intelligent, or really, really stupid.

When he wants something – a treat, a ball, to curl up on my pillow and steal all the blankets – his ability to process information and communicate appears to suddenly skyrocket into Mensa territory. He’ll paw at the comforter to indicate his all-consuming desire to take a luxurious nap on the bed, whine to get my attention and expectantly trot over to the cabinet where his toys are stored, and perk up at the casual mention of a collection of words he recognizes, even if not directed at him (sample incident: Me: “Hey, N., are you hungry? When do you want to eat dinner?” Franklin: WHINE WHINE BARK WHINE).

But other times, he seems brain dead.

Leaving aside for a moment the behaviors he exhibits that are incomprehensible and/or indicative of a lobotomy – licking the exposed skin of any human endlessly, repeatedly locking himself in the bathroom, obsessively swallowing up anything within tongue’s reach and then vomiting – he appears to classify all non-human entities into one of three behavioral categories:

To Bark At, To Chase, or To Hump.

To Bark At is the most widely cast net of the three. Things To Bark At include all cats, other dogs (when he is on a leash or safely corralled behind a fence), enormous birds that may or may not be cats from a distance, horses, unidentified animals that are cat-sized, and, occasionally, nothing.

Things To Chase is a category more narrowly defined, consisting of cats and aforementioned cat-like animals, moths, mosquitos, flies, pigeons, rats, and tennis balls. It’s important to note that the goal here is not To Catch, but To Chase. Once a Chased thing is Caught, the dog appears confused.

Last, but most definitely not least, there are Things To Hump – a surprisingly inclusive category that encompasses other dogs, the legs of unsuspecting men at the dog park, blankets, children, and the occasional ottoman.

Sometimes, I will enter a room to find him sitting in front of a blank wall, staring at it.

Is there something more I’m unable to see in this zen-like act of meditation? A deeper meaning of Contemplating the Wall that my puny human brain can’t comprehend?

Or is my dog simply an idiot?


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